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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 15:21 GMT
Picking up the pieces of conflict
Soldier admitted to Selly Oak Hospital

Should wounded soldiers be treated in a specialist military hospital or by the NHS? BBC One's Real Story has investigated the stories of some of the men injured in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Paratrooper David Caldwell has total recall of the Taliban bullet that ripped through the side of his neck during a fierce fire fight in Afghanistan.

"Because of the velocity of the bullet it made my spine swell and a lot of the nerves and that got depressed which is why I could not feel my body moving."

The next thing he remembers is regaining consciousness in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, where he has been treated for the past eight weeks.

He is one of more than 750 service personnel, of the 12,500 serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, flown home for medical treatment in the UK this year.

But some doubt if the NHS is the right place to treat wounded members of the armed forces.

Daniel Twiddy
Daniel Twiddy before and after his wounds

Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in Parliament it was a "disgrace" to treat soldiers on civilian wards.

The News of the World launched an "Abandoned Heroes" campaign for a dedicated top-level military hospital.

And Dr Peter Golding, consultant at the country's last military hospital, Haslar Hospital, in Portsmouth, fears the armed forces are losing specialist treatment.

The Ministry of Defence severs links next year with Haslar including its 148 beds, 10 operating theatres and a state of the art burns unit.

"You're asking these men to put their lives on the line in battle and they deserve the best treatment that's available and the best treatment available is quick treatment in a proper military hospital," Dr Golding told Real Story.

But Dr Susan Sinclair, head of Selly Oak's Intensive Care Unity, said some soldiers treated have needed as many as 11 different specialists, ranging from trauma orthopaedic to plastic surgeons.

David McGough
I've had to do everything myself pretty much - find people on the NHS - doctors, GPs and things like that
David McGough

"The army cannot and never have been able to sustain the sort of level of expertise in different areas at the standard you should rightfully expect these days," she said.

Discharged soldiers are happy with the NHS but criticise the MoD's after care.

David McGough, said his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was diagnosed by an NHS doctor after his discharge from the Royal Army Medical Corps after a year's sick leave.

He suffered depression, insomnia, and loss of appetite and vomiting and attempted suicide.

"My psychiatrist said if I'd got the treatment, I'm having now sooner, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now.

"I've had to do everything myself pretty much - find people on the NHS - doctors, GPs and things like that."

Air Commodore Paul Evans
If the individual has a problem that is attributable to time in the service that is the responsibility of the NHS
Air Commodore Paul Evans

Former Lance Corporal Daniel Twiddy suffered 80% burns all over his body with large shrapnel wounds and scars and cuts into his head, when his tank was hit by friendly fire.

A shrapnel piece went through his face smashing his cheekbone, jawbone and teeth.

"I felt the MoD didn't want nothing to do with me - things that I'd asked for they weren't willing to give or pay for such as skin treatment, a therapist.

"I was forking out 60 a week out of my own pocket."

But the MoD sees it differently.

"If the individual has a problem that is attributable to time in the service that is the responsibility of the NHS, there are methods by which they can contact ex service organisations to either seek more rapid access through the NHS for the particular problem that caused the medical discharge and that should be the method by which they can clinically get the care they need," said Air Commodore Paul Evans.

He said the MoD works with the Department of Health and voluntary groups such as Combat Stress and the British Legion to support ex service personnel.

See the full story on BBC One: Real Story Wed 22 Nov 1930GMT.



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